The Netherlands is known for thinking "outside-of-the-box" when it comes to finding creative, sustainable solutions in road technology. In November 2014, the world's first solar bike path was created – a 70-meter stretch of solar-powered road linking the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer. And now three industry giants are joining forces to further develop the concept of a plastic road. The idea is to replace asphalt (traditionally used in road construction) with recycled plastic from the ocean.
The project is being spearheaded by VolkerWessels' enterprise, KWS, the largest road construction company in the Netherlands – in collaboration with Wavin, a world leader in plastic pipe systems, and oil and gas company Total. Together, we will combine knowledge, experience, and resources to build the first road made from 100% recycled plastic.
The birth of an ida
The PlasticRoad concept is the brainchild of KWS. The company took a look at the road-related problems that cities and urban areas face – such as the erosion of roads from weather and flooding, as well as the continuous need for maintenance and repair. These issues are costly and cause frustration, not to mention the potential safety issues due to potholes and road cracks. Another concern is that oil, the main component of asphalt, will become a scarce commodity in the not too distant future.
So, the idea of a road made... not from asphalt... but from 100% recycled plastic waste from the ocean begins to make sense. Concerns about noise reduction, water permeability and road flatness are effectively eliminated with the PlasticRoad concept. Additionally, switching from asphalt to plastic roads will likely reduce the carbon dioxide emissions significantly.
A collaborative effort to build a sustainable prototype
In order to take the idea to the next level, KWS decided to seek out partners who could contribute to developing a prototype. Wavin, with its knowledge base and expertise in recycled plastic pipe systems, is a natural choice as partner. Total rounds up the tri-company alliance. For all three, sustainability is at the heart of their corporate philosophy.
The amazing advantages of a plastic road
Plastic is simply much more sustainable. In a road construction, it can allow for power generation, reduced road noise, heated roads, and modular pre-fabricated construction. It also offers a hollow space which can efficiently be used for pipes, cables and rainwater. Essentially maintenance-free, PlasticRoad will not corrode and is weather-resistant. It can withstand temperatures as low as -40⁰C and as high as 80⁰C. It's lifespan will exceed and asphalt road... three times over!
From the ocean to terra firma
The concept of PlasticRoad is completely in sync with environmental initiatives like Cradle to Cradle (C2C) and The Ocean Cleanup. Plastic from the ocean is recycled and made into prefabricated road parts that can be installed in one piece – making the installation easy, quick and lightweight. Quality control suddenly becomes much more simplified.
Next steps for PlasticRoad
The concept still needs to undergo further testing, to see how it performs under different conditions. The goal is to have the first outdoor road test by the end of 2017. Wavin is excited to be an integral part of this project and delighted to be working alongside KWS and Total. We will certainly keep you posted on any new developments.
Here's to a greener future for road technology!